Arguably, the most grueling ultra-marathon race was one that happened annually in Australia in the years between 1983 and 1991. The Sydney to Melbourne Ultra-Marathon was a 543.7 mile race designed to test the endurance of the world’s top runners.
In its inaugural year, all of the athletes who showed up to race were young runners who trained for months, many of them had large corporate sponsors. All but one.
Initially, no one noticed the 61 year old man who wandered around the crowds… until he picked up his race number and headed to the starting line. Then the murmur began as press, spectators and other runners wondered what he was doing. Cliff Young was there to race.
Someone said, “You can’t run this race.” Cliff disagreed, “I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or tractors, and the whole time I was growing up, whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d always catch them. I believe I can run this race.”
When the race started, the pro runners left Cliff far behind. Cameras continued to follow the shuffling, old farmer as he plodded along. Other athletes had timetables of “run vs. rest” times and other plans to help them get through the anticipated 5-day race.
Cliff’s strategy? He didn’t know how long it would take, but he planned to run until he finished.
In business, I have met so many people who show up at the starting line with projects, goals or dreams sparkling within. Some are big dreams – some are smaller – but I can see the shine in the eye and I know there is something special there. Have you been there? Often, you don’t know everything that will be required to see it to completion, but you go ahead and begin a new thing anyway. You see, getting started is easy.
The hard part? Plodding along, head down and determined to get to the finish when those around you tell you it can’t be done. Continuing on through the dark hours of the night when all you want to do is stop – or go a different way. Endurance.
Too many great business plans and strategies die before they’ve had the chance to succeed. Endurance is a word lost on the tongues of all too many people. Can it be found on yours?
Cliff Young finished the race. Not only that, Cliff Young WON the race, and set a new record for ultra-marathon time/distance. He didn’t know there was a $10,000 prize for the winner. He didn’t know he would forever change the way ultra-marathoning is done. He just came to run to the finish line.
What will you accomplish by enduring through whatever difficulty you face today? What awaits you at the finish?